Autism Awareness Month / Day
I am going to veer from plants for a moment to discuss something I am equally passionate about because it is very close to home for me, and that is Autism. I would like to invite each of you to take a moment to recognize National Autism Awareness Month (April) and World Autism Awareness Day (April 2nd) , and to educate yourselves on Autism. I am the very proud Mother of a 14 year old with Autism and a 22 year old with Asperger’s. I know the struggles and the joys of raising a child with Autism. Our youngest was 4 before he spoke, he didn’t make eye contact, he didn’t like being touched, he was terrified of riding in a car, the vacuum cleaner, a toilet flushing, a picture on a cereal box, the color red and even a television remote. My eldest was labeled “gifted” because he was brilliant beyond years but struggled with common place social cues and still does to this day.
I knew very early something was different with my youngest. He wasn’t interested in playing with other children, he was happy all alone in his own world. I started testing him with the school district at two after our family Dr. told me I was over reacting and if I calmed down about it, it would pass. Follow your instincts, education and early intervention are key for these children. The biggest problem with Autism is that it is a spectrum disorder. Autism has many forms and it is unique to each child which can make it difficult to identify. Many of these kids are labeled as mentally challenged, or difficult and are isolated or drugged. Two years ago, Autism affected one in every 166 children, last year it was 1 in every 150, today, the prediction is that 1 in 88 will be diagnosed with Autism, for boys, it is 1 in 54. My eldest son Cavin was labeled “gifted” at the age of 4, he had very specific interests, spoke and read at a very early age, but later developed behaviors that seemed bazaar and ritualistic. He was genius, but suffered terribly with common sense tasks, short term memory and social situations with his peers. We discovered in his high school and college years that he is Aspergers (very highly functioning Autism). There are misdiagnoses every day because it looks so unique to each child, but the common thread is that early intervention is essential to their ultimate success. There are many websites ( Autismspeaks. org, wrongplanet. org etc.) but the resources are endless and you would be remiss in not knowing the signs. The information you have may save a neighbor, a grandchild, or your own child.
Early intervention and a lot of persistence is what saved my youngest son who was mute and non respondant. I wasn’t taking no for an answer and by 4th grade he was on the honor role in public school at the same level as his peers. He needs assistance, but he manages and has to work harder than anyone else. He struggles every day. I like to say he goes through life with his left brain tied behind his right, but he does it with such amazing spirit. Autistic children are inspirational and the magic that is contained in their brains is an untapped wonder.
For my oldest son, an early diagnoses may have prevented some of the challenges he currently faces. It is hard to keep a job no matter your talent when you struggle with social cues and memory for short term tasks. Though he is brilliant and would prosper in a nurturing environment, we just aren’t there yet with employers as there is not enough education and understanding.
I would also like to take this opportunity to ask you all to speak to your children and grandchildren about Autism and about bullying. My youngest son deals with bullies and isolation, some children simply do not understand that they are being cruel and would do better if they understood the seriousness of their actions. Bullying is NOT “kids being kids”… it is cruel and it changes a person’s perception of themselves. We need to teach our children empathy and it will be a great life lesson for them. It is also important to teach our children to reach out to these kids and include them, otherwise how will they ever know how amazing a child with Autism really is, and what a great friend they could be.
This might be a great opportunity to get your kiddo’s outside to plant a tree, rose or special plant in honor of those with Autism and their families. Since Blue is the national Autism color, maybe you could plant Bluebonnets, Blue Plumbago or Blue Salvia as a few great choices. This is also a great way to make the Autism connection with your children/grandchildren while you are making a connection with them ;-).
Happy Gardening and Happy Autism month to the many families who are blessed to celebrate these amazing children!!
Proud Mommy of 1 in 54 x 2
Lisa’s Landscape and Design
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”